Digital Display Advertising For Medicare Marketers

Chapter 5 of “Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World”

Digital Display is a wide term for a category that includes banner advertisements, promoted or sponsored advertisements including those on social media, native advertisements, video, rich media and sponsorships for all devices. Unlike strictly text based ads, display advertising relies on images, audio and video to engage the audience and convey the advertising message.

Revolutionizing the way digital display ads are managed.

There are many vendors whose products and services have completely transformed the management of digital display ads..  When looking at the Display Lumascape above, you may find that some of the category topics are unfamiliar.  Let’s take a closer look at what goes into implementing digital display advertising.

Agency Trading Desks and Programmatic media buying

ATDs or Agency Trading Desks manage the bidding of programmatic digital display media through a system that is customized to execute the digital display strategies of a specific client or group of clients of a specific agency.  Programmatic automates the ad buying and selling process through the use of software and technology at a speed and scale that makes it more efficient and effective. Programmatic Ad Buying (also known as RTB Real Time Buying) helps marketers take advantage of unsold or “remnant” digital inventory. When ad serving sites have unsold inventory, programmatic rates are offered at considerable discounts compared to the site’s direct rates.

And programmatic offers advertisers the ability to incorporate large amounts of data, to serve users with ads that are more likely to be relevant on psychographic, demographic, behavioral and intent levels. Accuen is Omnicom Media Group’s Agency Trading Desk within a programmatic agency, operating the industry’s first open and flexible platform for programmatic media buying for the world’s leading marketers. Accuen delivers market-leading solutions across channels, transforming data into competitive media advantage.

Dynamic Creative Optimization DCO or Dynamic Creative Optimization allows marketers to test and optimize banners or other digital display ads based on real-time feedback from multi-variate testing. Multi-variate testing tests a hypothesis in which multiple variables are modified. The goal is to determine which combination of variations performs the best out of all of the possible combinations. The data is analyzed in real-time through an algorithm and results are interpreted simultaneously to serve the right banner via real time data dependent on a searcher’s intent.

Retargeting This definition of retargeting is from “Retargeting is a cookie-based technology that uses simple a Javascript code to anonymously ‘follow’ your audience all over the Web.

Here’s how it works: you place a small, unobtrusive piece of code on your website (this code is sometimes referred to as a pixel). The code, or pixel, is inconspicuous to your site visitors and won’t affect your site’s performance. Every time a new visitor comes to your site, the code drops an anonymous browser cookie. Later, when your cookied visitors browse the Web, the cookie will let your retargeting provider know when to serve ads, ensuring that your ads are served to only to people who have previously visited your site.

Retargeting is so effective because it focuses your advertising spend on people who are already familiar with your brand and have recently demonstrated interest. That’s why most marketers who use it see a higher ROI than from most other digital channels.”

Filling out the eye chart of the Digital Display Lumascape are the following: DSP is an acronym for Demand Side Platform which is software used to purchase advertising with a platform that allows buyers/advertisers to buy the inventory from various ad exchanges and data exchange accounts through one interface which is RTB or Real Time Bidding.  A Supply-side or Sell-side Platform (SSP) is a technology platform which enables the publishers to manage their ad impression inventory and maximize revenue from digital media

Exchanges are ad exchanges, which is a “market” for ad buying and placement, as are Ad Networks which come in various iterations and flavors such as Vertical/Custom, Targeted Networks/AMPS (Audience Management Platforms which is a vendor that offers both DSP and DMP, Data Management Platform), Performance enhancing software, Mobile specific platforms, ad servers and then a multitude of vendors that work to supply measurement and analytics, verification and privacy, retargeting, testing and optimization and media management systems and operational systems.

Medicare marketers will usually rely on their agency partners to manage these aspects of their programs, as the technical nature and knowledge needed to staff marketing operations to facilitate all that is associated with best practice digital display marketing and advertising prohibits Medicare marketing organizations from building their own in-house digital display marketing teams.

According to EMarketer: “In 2016, digital display ad spending will eclipse search ad spending in the US for the first time. Combined, the categories of video, sponsorships, rich media and “banners and other” will account for the largest share of digital ad spending: 47.9%, worth $32.17 billion.”

This monumental shift from search to display is not reflected in the current usage that I’ve observed by Medicare marketing organizations. Some organizations are “getting their toes wet” in the digital display water, and some haven’t provided themselves with adequate dedicated digital display budget to be effective.  Others have completely stayed away from digital display putting all their eggs in the search basket for digital advertising investment.

What does the term “Programmatic” mean as it relates to Display Advertising?

By definition, Programmatic ad buying refers to the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to contracting inventory from a specific site over a specific time period which has enabled marketers using Programmatic ad buying to buy digital ads more efficiently and effectively.

According to eMarketer, U.S. programmatic digital display ad spending grew 137.1% to $10 Billion in 2014, which represents 45% of the U.S. digital display ad market.  And a recent article in Advertising Age noted that “Programmatic buying is on track to make up $14.88 billion of the approximately $58.6 billion digital advertising pie this year, a nearly $5 billion leap from 2014, when it accounted for $9.9 billion.”

Why does it matter to Medicare marketers?

Programmatic Ad Buying provides marketers with the ability to grow, scale, gain media efficiency, enjoy wide targeting capabilities and deliver ads with cross platform (device) accessibility.

“A demand-side platform (DSP) is a system that allows buyers of digital advertising inventory to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface” states Wikipedia, and this access to thousands of sites on which we can serve ad impressions provides us with the ability to be extremely efficient, effective while increasing our digital display targeting capabilities with virtually limitless scalability.

Programmatic Ad Buying (also known as RTB Real Time Buying) is an automated way to take advantage of unsold or “remnant” digital inventory. When ad serving sites have unsold inventory, programmatic rates are offered at considerable discounts compared to the site’s direct rates.

As with search, digital display ads bought through programmatic means, can be targeted nearly every which way from Sunday.

  • Retargeting
  • Look-a-Like Targeting
  • Behavioral or Psychographic Targeting
  • Contextual Targeting
  • Demographic Targeting
  • Brand Keywords
  • Targeted Non-Brand Keywords
  • Conquesting
  • Targeted Ad Copy
  • Targeted Devices
  • Behavioral Targeting
  • Targeted Day-Parting
  • Retargeting (Remarketing)
  • Geo Targeting
  • Geo Fencing
  • Platform (Device)

Banners Banners are the most common form of digital display advertising and come in a variety of flavors and sizes.  The Marketing Tech Blog provides this comprehensive listing of popular banner sizes:

Top Performing Ad Sizes on Google

  • Leaderboard – 728 pixels wide by 90 pixels tall
  • Half-Page – 300 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall
  • Inline Rectangle – 300 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall
  • Large Rectangle – 336 pixels wide by 280 pixels tall
  • Large Mobile Banner – 320 pixels wide by 100 pixels tall


Other Supported Ad Sizes on Google

  • Mobile Leaderboard – 320 pixels wide by 50 pixels tall
  • Banner – 468 pixels wide by 60 pixels tall
  • Half Banner – 234 pixels wide by 60 pixels tall
  • Skyscraper – 120 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall
  • Vertical Banner – 120 pixels wide by 240 pixels tall
  • Wide Skyscraper – 160 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall
  • Portrait – 300 pixels wide by 1050 pixels tall
  • Large Leaderboard – 970 pixels wide by 90 pixels tall
  • Billboard – 970 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall
  • Square – 250 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall
  • Small Square – 200 pixels wide by 200 pixels tall
  • Small Rectangle – 180 pixels wide by 150 pixels tall
  • Button – 125 pixels wide by 125 pixels tall

See the entire list of banner sizes from The Marketing Tech Blog here.

Rich Media Digital Display As Google so aptly defines it “Rich media is a digital advertising term for an ad that includes advanced features like video, audio, or other elements that encourage viewers to interact and engage with the content.”  While text ads sell with words, and display ads sell with pictures, rich media ads offer more ways to involve an audience with an ad. The ad can expand, float, etc. You can access aggregated metrics on your audience’s behavior, including number of expansions, multiple exits, and video completions to get granular data on the success of your campaign. If you have a simple objective to generate clicks or a more ambitious goal to create brand awareness, rich media is the format to go with.

There are various types of Rich Media digital display ads available to Medicare marketers and you will find wonderful examples of these different types at Google’s Rich Media Gallery here.

  • Animated Ads are now mostly implemented in animated gifs or HTML5, as Flash is nearing extinction as Google has announced that “from January 2, 2017 ads in the Flash format will not run on across Google Display Network and DoubleClick.”
  • Expanding Ads that begin as banner size can expand to large sizes and may include a video display.
  • Sidebar Ads are displayed usually in the columns to the left or right of the content.
  • Mouse over Ads either pop up or expand when the user mouses over words or the entire ad.
  • Background Ads replace the background image and provide a large clickable area for users to hit as the background of the web page.
  • Click-Through Ads bring the user to a new page (usually a landing page) where the user will be served a video or an additional ad, then they will need to click through to view the content.
  • Reveal Ads block the content on the web page and when the viewer has viewed the ad or video, the content.
  • Video Ads autoplay with or without sound on a page.
  • Slide-In Ads slide in from the left, right, top or bottom.
  • Exit-Intent Ads are pop-up ads activated by mouse-movement predictions to determine when a person has the intent to leave a page. 
  • Pop-Up Ads can be designed to deploy as soon as you arrive at, or attempt to leave a web page.

Medicare Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Every year Luma Partners, a unique investment banking firm that lives in the digital media world, releases several different “Lumascapes” . These provide an infographic look at the landscape for a given digital area.  There is a Lumascape for Digital Display Advertising, another for Digital Search Advertising, and for mobile and for video.

As most Medicare marketers are in the nascent stages of both search and display, let’s take a look at the Lumascapes for each beginning with search.

Search involves more than just Google AdWords as you can see from this very busy infographic. It begins with the agencies at the upper-left-hand corner (Disclaimer: KERN HEALTH is an Omnicom Group Agency) and progresses to those agencies that specialize in search such as KERN HEALTH’s media partner, Converge Direct.

In between you’ll see the inclusion of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) tools such as Google AdWords, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tools like MOZ, analytics including both search and web including Google Analytics to all of the various search engines such as Google, Bing & Yahoo, and search retargeting, verification and search networks.

Skipping the elementary basics of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) which marketers are generally familiar with, let’s take a deeper dive into what different SEM variations are available to Medicare marketers. Fundamental Keyword Selection strategy will not be covered here, which is of itself the subject of literally libraries of books.

Medicare marketers are familiar with and have experience and historic benchmarks to reference regarding their selection of keyword search terms. Basic search advertising is usually done on the largest platform, which is Google AdWords. Google has an excellent educational section on the AdWords site which can be found here.

The following technologically driven tactics are usually used together, and not as isolated tactics, as a campaign can include many of these tactics integrated to achieve the strategic vision.

SEO and SEM (Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing)

Best practice digital marketers don’t view SEO and SEM as an either/or asset; since experienced and successful digital marketers know they must have strategies for both SEO and SEM in place to achieve success.  Ensuring that the website and landing pages are search engine friendly (can easily be crawled and indexed by search engines) is essential to the success of any SEM program. Having a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy supported by a SEO driven content strategy lifts the effectiveness of both SEO and SEM short term and long term.

SEO continues to be a “cat and mouse” game, as Google changes algorithms, SEO experts change tactics to exploit the new algorithm. If you’d like to learn more about SEO, there are some excellent books on Amazon that cover the subject in detail.

Search Engine MarketingToday, there are a variety of targeting tactics available to the modern Search Engine Marketer beyond demographics. Savvy SEM strategists must constantly keep themselves current with new technological changes to fully leverage the latest best practice tactics.

The tactics listed here are usually used together, not just individually, as a campaign can integrate many of them to achieve the strategic vision.

As Medicare marketers have just begun to scratch the surface on what targeting tactics are available, here are today’s modern SEM targeting tactics.


Search Engine Marketing Targeting Tactics For Medicare marketers

Brand Keywords Campaigns can be run for both Branded and non-branded search terms, depending on campaign emphasis. Brand keywords are obviously keywords that include the brand. People searching for brands have high intent on finding the brand that they’re searching for and therefore provide marketers with a high or good ROAS (Return on Ad Spend.) Many organizations have branded their products so that they are able to make people aware of their brand right when they’re searching.

Targeted Non-Brand Keywords Conversely to Brand Keyword searches, Targeted Non-Brand Keyword are designed for searchers with less intent than brand searchers, and generally provide a lower or lesser ROAS. Many organizations measure Branded and Non-Branded keyword searches separately since the level of intent for each of these searches is decidedly different.

Conquesting Conquesting is generally considered an aggressive marketing strategy by a company targeting a competitor’s brand name or product names or marketing slogans. Perhaps the most famous occurrence of conquesting came during the 2011 Super Bowl, when Volkswagen ran the famous Darth Vader commercial. In that spot, a kid dressed as Darth Vader, starts his Dad’s VW with what he believed was the power of the Force. Turns out it was really Dad with a remote start button. Chevrolet saw the commercial, and according to this USA Today article: “A team of Chevrolet marketers went into action, paying for links to Chevy’s Super Bowl ads to appear as a top result when people Googled phrases such as “Darth Vader.” As a result, Chevrolet’s ads got 55 million views online in the four days following the Super Bowl — far above expectations.”

Targeted Ad Copy As you might imagine, targeting keywords within an ad or landing page copy is another tactic marketers use to return relevant searches to those seeking a product or service rather than a brand. For Medicare marketers phrases such as “Part D Prescription Drug Plan” or “Medicare Advantage HMO” are common phrases used within the ad copy and can be used as keywords for targeted ad copy.

Targeted Devices

Medicare marketers can leverage device targeting to reach their best prospective customers on any device.  Controlling when, where and on what device your ads appear enables flexible targeting options, as you can combine device targeting with other attributes such as location, day, time, and demographics. And, you can tailor a specific mobile campaign to only target smart phones of one or more manufacturers. By testing device targeting, marketers are able to understand which devices their best performing perspective customers are using and can increase ROAS significantly by targeting those specific devices combined with other top performing attributes. This is especially critical for Medicare marketers as leading edge boomers age in to eligibility.

Contextual CPC (Cost Per Click)

Where and when marketer’s digital advertisements are placed is as critical, or more critical than the message, the offer or the creative. Imagine a brilliant ad with a fabulous offer pasted onto a billboard in an isolated desert town with literally no traffic driving by.  The outdoor board will not be effective. The same is true for digital advertising, including search.  Medicare search engine marketing must be planned by thoroughly understand the digital media consumption behavior and habits of the Medicare audience. Vendors offer context-based algorithm-based placement of searches to ensure that the ad being placed appears in front of an interested audience who is receptive to the offer.

Using contextual CPC also enables Search Engine Retargeting which is a newer technology that dynamically inserts the searcher’s own keyword queries into your ad copy as the user continues to browse other sites and all this activity is trackable and attributable through the vendor’s analytics reports. There are vendors that allow for cost-per-click contextual traffic specifically targeted to the health vertical. They each have a collection of sites focused on Insurance.  Some of the benefits of Contextual CPC include the allowance for CPC traffic similar to Search, but at a lower cost since users only see an ad if they meet the selected criteria such as demographic, geographic, or other selectable attributes. Read more about contextual targeting for Google AdWords here.

There are several vendors that allow for Cost Per Click Contextual traffic specifically targeted to a collection of sites focused on Medicare Insurance

Targeted Day-parting

DayPart targeting allows Medicare marketers to reach the audience by the time and day of the week when ads are most likely to be seen based on the media consumption and behavior patterns of the audience.  Dialing in the best times of day that the Medicare audience is most likely to be searching for search terms enables marketers to increase ROAS by maximizing the allocated budget for the most impact. Here is another opportunity to test and learn what days and what times of day your prospective audience is most likely going to be searching for Medicare information or assistance so that you can optimize your spend and maximize results. And while many Medicare marketers are using Google AdWords, some may be unaware that targeted day-parting is an option. Learn more about Google AdWords custom scheduling here.

RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads)

According to Google, Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) “is a feature that lets you customize your search ads campaign for people who have previously visited your site, and tailor your bids and ads to these visitors when they’re searching on Google.” Why might Medicare marketers be interested in this capability? Well, in order to maximize the effectiveness of a smaller digital search budget, having your search engine marketing only return PPC ads to people who have already shown an interest by visiting your site is an excellent way to squeeze every working dollar out of your digital budget. When someone visits your Medicare site, they are most likely interested in your Medicare offerings.  When that person continues to search for other Medicare plans, your search engine marketing ad comes up first- and there is a better likelihood that the searcher may be swayed into revisiting your site and reconsidering your offer.

Geo Targeting

“Geo Targeting” and “Geo Fencing” are terms that are often misunderstood and misused by marketers, so let’s address the difference while defining them. Geo Targeting is the targeting of prospective members within a specified geographical territory such as a DMA that meet other targeting criteria such as demographic or psychographic selected attributes. For Medicare marketers Geo Targeting is an important aspect of every SEM campaign, including testing different tactics including messaging, formats, keywords and more to different geographical locations.  Bidding for search terms within broad geographic locations such as zip codes, cities, counties or states is going to be much for efficient and effective driving higher ROAS.

Geo Fencing

Geo Fencing involves drawing a virtual DMA using either a device’s GPS or a home or business’ IP address as the centralized origination point and targets prospects within the radius selected from those origination points. Utilizing Geo Fencing will enable you to show ads to EVERYONE within a selected area, usually a much tighter location radius than can be used with Geo Targeting. Medicare marketers can use this capability to target areas with high concentrations of boomers or seniors such as large retirement communities to gain efficiency, drive down investments and increase response. Geo Fencing does not provide marketers with the ability to serve up push notifications on apps to those within the Geo Fence radius, although many marketers mistakenly believe that it does.

Search Engine Marketing for Medicare Marketers Knowing what tools are in the toolbox and having expert knowledge of those tools is essential for any master carpenter. Even the novice must survey the tool box before attempting to build a project, and the same is true for Medicare marketing strategists.

There are 10 stages in the modern buyer’s journey which are Distraction, Recognize Need, Search For Solutions, Seek Vendor Solutions, Evaluate Solutions, Justify Solutions, Social Research, Cost Analysis, Purchase, Evaluation of Decision.

While the journey stages of the AEP “Switcher” and the “Age-In” prospects are similar they may have very different needs and concerns when shopping for Medicare. The final messaging for each segment must speak to each audience’s specific needs and wants.

No matter the audience, something is likely to distract or interrupt a Medicare shopper, which acts as a catalyst to consider either their current Medicare coverage (Switcher) or that they are nearing the age where they will have to face a choice regarding Medicare by the time they turn 65 (Age-In). Maybe it was something they heard from a friend or family member, or perhaps they saw a commercial for Medicare on television or online.

Once they have recognized that they have a need (2), both audiences are likely to search for solutions (3) and begin to look for specific Vendor solutions (4).

They will evaluate those solutions (5) and perhaps will need to justify those solutions to their spouse, children or friends (6) and they, or their support group will conduct social research (7) during each stage of their journey.

How much does it cost per month, or what is the total cost of the policy including deductibles? These questions are answered within the Cost Analysis (8) leg of the journey, and the decision to make a purchase (9) is made, and then the important evaluation of the decision (10) occurs, which is increasingly more important as many post their evaluation online for others to see.

Understanding and mapping the Medicare buyer’s journey will enable organizations to determine which tactics are best for early stage, middle stage and late stage funnel searchers.  Testing different messaging, positioning and tactical execution, along with landing page versions is best practice, and will allow your marketing to evolve into an optimized program providing great ROAS.

Throughout the Summer of ’16, various types of content will be produced to tell you the story of “Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World.

The purpose of this work is to provide a 30,000 foot view for Medicare marketing CMO’s and other Medicare marketing leaders.


50 Questions To Ask Before Developing A Digital Medicare Marketing Strategy

Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World Chapter 3

Digital Strategy 101- A Prerequisite to Building a Digital Strategy

What is a digital strategy?

A digital strategy is the process of identifying, articulating and executing on digital opportunities that will increase your organization’s competitive advantage.

For our purpose and put more simply: “A digital strategy is a marketing strategy in our world which happens to be increasingly digital.”

Building a digital strategy will obviously require knowledge of the digital landscape along with the knowledge that any Medicare marketing strategist would need to develop any marketing strategy.

Part of the confusion surrounding digital strategy is the definition of term digital itself.  For organizations a digital strategy can be all things digital, from the digitization of paper records to the implementation of a digital back-end member portal complete with Electronic Health Records (EHRs).   From the development and deployment of mobile digital applications to the management of the organization’s social media properties to the decision to purchase and implement digital systems all fall under the broad “digital” umbrella.

Specifically for this purpose which is Medicare marketing, we will define digital as it pertains to marketing, in areas such as:

  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Digital Display Advertising
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Website and Landing Page Development
  • Email
  • Mobile Applications
  • Mobile Messaging

Each one of the above topics have been and will continue to be the entire subject of marketing books. It is the intention of this work to provide a brief, consolidated overview of the digital advertising tools which are available, in order to enlighten Medicare marketers as to what needs to go into developing and creating a digital marketing strategy.

Before ANY marketing strategy can be developed or created, questions must be asked and answered. Often times in order to provide answers, research must be conducted, assessed and studied to understand the insights gained from the research.

Let’s begin with:

50 Questions To Ask Before Developing A Digital Medicare Marketing Strategy

The Marketplace

  1. What is the marketplace opportunity?
  2. What is the market share of our top 3 competitors?
  3. What is our market share?
  4. Where within our DMA (Designated Market Area) are the best opportunities for growth?

The Audience

  1. How many people =>65 years old are in-market within the DMA now?
  2. How many people are 64 years old this year that will be aging into Medicare within the DMA this year, and next year?
  3. Have we developed target audience progressive personas?
  4. Have we developed segmentation studies, informing segmentation through digital analytics and insights?
  5. What are the digital media consumption behaviors and habits of our target audience?
  6. What is the buyer’s journey for >63<65 year olds? (Age-In)
  7. What is the buyer’s journey for =>65 year olds with a propensity to switch (AEP?)
  8. What is the buyer’s journey for =>65 year olds able to enroll year-round in plans enjoying a CMS 5 star rating?
  9. What is our audience thinking, feeling, experiencing, expecting and considering at each stage of the modern buyer’s 10-stage journey?


Your Organization’s Current State of Digital

  1. Specifically regarding each of the digital channels and capabilities, what are the organization’s
  • Strengths?
  • Weaknesses?
  • Opportunities?
  • Threats?


Digital Goals

  1. What are the growth goals or how many new incremental members are being sought to add through digital channels?
  2. What digital goals can be developed to better engage with members?
  3. What is the digital transformation vision for the organization?
  4. How can better service be provided to members through digital means?
  5. How can operations be more effective and efficient through digital means?
  6. What is the capacity for integrating the different parts of a digital strategy?
  7. What is the plan to integrate digital advertising with other advertising, marketing and event-driven efforts?
  8. What defining Key Performance Indicators and other metrics will digital programs and progress be measured by?
  9. What is the capacity to perform analytical review of efforts to gain insight into how digital efforts can be optimized?
  10. What is the plan for agility in refining the digital strategy at regular intervals?
  11. What are the estimates for the future digital investment roadmap?


Brand, Positioning and Messaging

  1. How to best communicate the core features and values of the brand?
  2. How to add value to the brand through digital means?
  3. How to differentiate from competitors and communicate this through digital means?
  4. What is the position and message of key competitors?
  5. What is the “white space” within the industry messaging that can be leveraged, controlled and owned by the organization?
  6. What is the brand messaging and positioning for products and people?


Digital Content Strategy, Digital Content Audit and Digital Content Creation

  1. What is digital content strategy?
  2. Is our content strategy mapped to the buyer’s journey for each segment of our audience?
  3. What is the organization’s owned media strategy?
  4. What is our earned media strategy?
  5. What’s the best way to promote, advertise, leverage and exploit our owned and earned media with digital paid media through various targeting options?
  6. Can the digital e-communications strategy be streamlined and refined?
  7. Can implementation of personalized messaging through digital means to our audience be realized?
  8. Are there plans to create a content hub?
  9. Have digital assets been audited? And if so, when?
  10. What’s the best way to perform a gap analysis of content?
  11. How do we create a digital editorial calendar?


Digital CRM

  1. How can we best engage with our members digitally?
  2. How to determine the current level of online member engagement?
  3. What goals can be set to improve digital engagement?
  4. What KPIs can be put in place to measure digital engagement?
  5. What are the digital loyalty drivers that exist now, and what drivers do we need to have?
  6. What are the digital loyalty barriers that need to be overcome, and how to overcome them?
  7. How can member advocacy be improved through digital means?
  8. What is our e-CRM approach and method for data profiling?

There are other important questions that need to be asked and answered in order to craft a digital marketing strategy, many of which will be posed in the following chapters that specifically discuss digital tactics.

Throughout the Summer of ’16, various types of content will be produced to tell you the story of “Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World.

The purpose of this work is to provide a 30,000 foot view for Medicare marketing CMO’s and other Medicare marketing leaders.

In the next installment I will discuss SEM (Search Engine Marketing) including tactics that work for Medicare eligibles.

Did you miss Chapter 1 of Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World? Read it here.

Chapter 2, A Digital Beginning can be found here.

Chapter 4, Medicare Search Engine Marketing can be seen here.

Chapter 5, Digital Display Advertising For Medicare Marketers is right here.

Chapter 6, Video Advertising for Medicare Marketers can be found here.

Chapter 7, Native Advertising Vs. Content Marketing for Medicare Marketers is here.

A Digital Beginning: Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World (Chapter 2)


Chapter 2
A Digital Beginning


The late Dr. Wayne Dwyer said “Go for it now.  The future is promised to no one.”  This is sound advice for life and for ending the procrastination about when your Medicare marketing organization should begin to create a digital strategy.  “Go for it now.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room.  Every Medicare marketer has numbers to make.  It is no secret that direct mail is the primary workhorse of Medicare Marketing, providing the necessary leads for inside sales, brokers and agents and driving self-serve transactional online sales.   Jeopardizing an organization’s ability to meet or exceed the sales goals by moving budget out of direct mail and into digital is not a viable option nor is slicing a digital budget out of DRTV, Print, Events or other high performing channels.

Mobile is No Longer Considered A Channel
To be clear, more than ½ of all digital advertising occurs on mobile devices.  The remainder of this book will incorporate strategies that are as much mobile as they are desktop.   For modern marketers, there is no longer a separate category for mobile, and for Medicare marketers, the reality that our audience is now predominantly mobile must be acknowledged and prepared for.  All of the strategies and tactics contained within are applicable to mobile and I strongly encourage the consideration of cross platform mobile digital advertising, for search, display, video and through mobile specific apps (applications.) Don’t expect to see a “Mobile Marketing” section- everything here is for mobile and desktop.

A Digital Marketing Strategy is More Than A Digital Media Strategy
Who is responsible to create and execute the digital strategy?   Is it the marketing department of the Medicare organization?   Perhaps it’s the marketing agency that works with the Medicare organization, or could it be the Media agency who is responsible?  I’ve seen it all 3 ways.   Due to budget limitations smaller Medicare organizations task their own marketing department to do this, while most of the time it is the marketing agency that creates the strategy, while the media agency is generally responsible for executing the strategy, and implementing the ad spend as directed.

Best practice calls for the Medicare organization’s marketing agency to create the strategy.   After all, the marketing agency is orchestrating all channels, and needs to assume the role of the lead agency directing all marketing endeavors of the organization including media.  The lead agency will best understand the brand, the brand values, and chances are they either helped to write the positioning and messaging of both the brand and the products.

Every best-practice lead agency will depend on input from the media agency and the marketing department of the Medicare organization to develop the best possible strategy and implementation roadmap.

The Digital Strategy and Digital Budget Conundrum
The obvious conclusion is that there can’t be a digital strategy without a DEDICATED digital budget and conversely, how can a digital budget be estimated without a digital strategy?


Let’s pull back from the philosophical to the practical for a moment.  Those who are in a position where they are developing strategy are usually aware of the budget availability and limitations of the organization.   The assumption is that you’ll know if your digital budget is more likely to be a bread basket or a bread truck or a bread factory or a national chain of bread factories with fleets of bread trucks.

There is a great likelihood that your Medicare marketing organization has forayed into the digital marketing game in some way by now, which means that your starting point isn’t at zero, which is a good thing.  Perhaps your organization has experimented with search, and maybe with some display or even with retargeting; and if so, you have some lessons learned, some benchmarks to reference and have been able to convince those holding the purse strings that digital experimentation must take place.

Based on what your organization has tolerated for digital marketing experimentation and what you estimate to be an acceptable budget range for digital marketing is a good starting place for determining a budget range for digital.  When building the actual strategy, a more detailed view of what you will need to spend based on benchmarks and educated estimates will allow honing of the budget to a more realistic number.

Some mistakenly view digital marketing as advertising on digital media channels.   While it is true that digital channels are utilized to advertise, creating a digital strategy is usually tasked to marketing agencies that develop strategy and either have a media department or utilize a media agency to place the media.   Building a digital strategy requires knowledge of the market, the target, direct response marketing, brand marketing, digital advertising, social media marketing and advertising and marketing strategy.

Creating a digital strategy framed within a business case which proves a positive ROI on an estimated budget that can be used to obtain funding can be challenging.

Throughout the Summer of ’16, various types of content will be produced to tell you the story of “Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World.

The purpose of this work is to provide a 30,000 foot view for Medicare marketing CMO’s and other Medicare marketing leaders.

In the next installment I discuss 50 important questions that must be asked and answered prior to developing a Digital Medicare Marketing Strategy.

Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World

Chapter 1:

Why are Medicare Marketers struggling to develop a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Have you recently been to a music concert where more than half of the audience is watching it through the camera screen of their smart phone?  It’s amazing how many people are holding their phones high above their heads in order to capture a personal video memory of the concert rather than just enjoying the moment.

Have you noticed that increasingly more and more people in public places have their heads down laser focused on their smart phones?

Just recently, Augsburg, a German city was the first municipality to install traffic signalsin the sidewalk so that smart phone-distracted pedestrians would see them after a 15 year old girl there was killed by a tram when according to police reports she was distracted by her smart phone while she crossed the tracks.

People are tethered to charging stations at airports so they will have digital access throughout their trip, even at 30,000 feet with on-board pay-to-play Wi-Fi.

Some have identified a psychological state known as “Nomophobia” which according toWikipedia is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact, as Nomophobia is an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone-phobia.”   In Psychology Today, an article that discusses “Smartphone Addiction” points to symptoms such as “Feeling anxious whenever you do not have your smartphone in your physical possession, constantly checking the phone for new texts with the compulsion to respond instantaneously, phantom cellphone vibration symptoms, not listening to people in front of your while checking your Facebook page” and more.

“For the first time ever, time spent inside mobile applications by the average US consumer has exceeded that of TV” noted in Flurry in a report published last month that goes on to say “the average US consumer is spending 198 minutes per day inside apps compared to 168 minutes on TV.”

Digital has become woven into everyday life, and those marketers who are ignoring it or pretending that it isn’t, should check how long their heads have been buried in the sand, because they are in danger of suffocating their careers.

And Digital is not only phones.  Digital is tablets, PC’s, planes, trains and automobiles. The IoT (Internet of Things) is all things connected, and according to Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) some 50 billion things will be connected by 2020.

Digital has expanded into home appliances, connected homes, connected cars, and more importantly, connected health.

We are indeed living in a Digital World. 

People are increasing their time spent with newer and emerging touch-points which are predominantly digital.

According to a recent 2015 Forrester report: “US online adults now report that they spend more time online than watching off line TV (20 and 11 hours, respectively).”  Stop for a moment and think of how that statement should impact your Medicare marketing strategy, however most Medicare marketing organizations haven’t realized that the shift from television to digital has already occurred.

Why then, are Medicare Marketers struggling to develop a Digital Marketing Strategy?

“Health Insurers Fall Flat with Consumer Marketing” was the topic of another Forrester report, which uncovered the fact that Health Insurance marketers are laggards in consumer marketing.  “John Bowen of Acxiom said that insurers’ biggest barrier is they don’t have the efficient best practices or similar skills in place as B2C marketing veterans have.”  The insight provided by this report included that “plan providers need to mimic other industries in similar positions (such as auto) and focus on driving an ongoing relationship through relationship marketing strategies that generate loyalty.”

And maybe it’s because up until now, some Medicare marketing organizations have viewed Digital as an additional channel, when it really isn’t.  Digital is a way of life.  Digital considerations must be made for every marketing strategy and tactic, even if the origination tactic is offline, such as television.

The phrase “Omnichannel” has reverberated throughout the hallways of every marketing organization for the past few years, and now, Omnichannel has become the hot buzz phrase for every channel of marketing, which most translate into digital channels, since no one ever mentioned “Omnichannel” until we were well into the digital age.

Up until now, those brave Medicare marketers who dared to peel some budget away from the traditional work horse channel of direct mail to experiment with digital have done so in very limited ways.

For most Medicare marketers, digital only means search and display.  For an adventurous few, digital may include retargeting or remarketing.

And some Medicare marketers are unaware of digital tactics such as programmatic, content marketing, native content marketing, native advertising, direct site alignment, social advertising and marketing automation.

Even for basic SEM (Search Engine Marketing) there are many new cutting edge tactics that marketers from other industries are capitalizing on, such as conquesting, targeted ad copy, targeted non-brand keywords, targeted devices, contextual CPC (Cost Per Click) and targeted day-parting, most of which Medicare marketers aren’t considering.

Considering that the leading-edge Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day in the United States which will continue until the year 2030, and that according to eMarketer, by 2018 there will be 10 million more 65+ year olds using the internet than in 2014, Medicare marketers must take off the blinders to see that the digital marketing handwriting is on the wall.

There is a great opportunity for Medicare marketers to become great digital marketers for their audience which is becoming increasingly digital as time quickly passes.   And it’s only a matter of time before the same digital consumer expectations that have impacted nearly every other industry will heavily impact the way that Medicare marketing is practiced.

At KERN HEALTH, we have been working on an expanded whitepaper of this subject: “Medicare Marketing In Our Digital World” which will be available this summer.  Please watch for it, and please stay tuned here on LinkedIn for more in this series.

Read the next installment now:

Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World: Chapter 2: A Digital Beginning 

10 Medicare Marketing Mega-trends for 2016


In 2016, there are 10 major Medicare Marketing Megatrends that will significantly impact marketers who are focused on developing programs for Medicare prospects and members:

  1. The Audience Has Changed and So Must Marketers

The most significant megatrend is that the Medicare audience is changing. There is a new senior in town. They’re not only identifiable by their age. Other factors are critical to segmenting the new Faces of Medicare in 2016, as the population moves from the Greatest Generation to leading-edge and trailing-edge baby boomers, who behave much differently than the seniors that most Medicare marketers are prepared for.

We see a digital-savvy consumer that spends more time online and on social networks than previous seniors. But we also see Medicare marketing organizations turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to this enlightened new group of seniors by planning the same old print, DM and TV marketing, and pretending that digital adoption by the new faces of Medicare isn’t a real thing.

Marketers need to create new media and budget strategies. Most are not likely to be wildly successful out of the gate considering that constant reevaluation and optimization on the fly during a compressed AEP might prove to be difficult without a seasoned and experienced marketing agency partner.

  1. New Member Acquisition: Balancing Age-In and AEP Acquisition Strategies

Knowing that new member acquisition is the important lifeblood of any insurer’s success, Medicare marketers are struggling to decide which is the greater pot of gold: age-in, with 10,000 people in the U.S. turning 65 every day, or AEP, during which multiple research documents show only 10% of the Medicare Advantage enrollees opt to switch at all. Should Medicare marketing organizations put their resources and emphasis on age-ins or on AEP?

And continuing with the acquisition theme, Medicare marketers are beginning to wonder what is actually within their control. Are they vying for a piece of the 22% of Medicare Advantage enrollees in AEP? Do they really have any hope of denting the acquisition numbers of the Magnificent Medicare Seven?

3 — Medicare Strategies for Those Who Work Past Age 65

What about the increasing number of seniors delaying retirement, keeping their workplace insurance and entering the Medicare market late? Organizations must have strategies in place to attract and acquire members of this increasingly growing segment. Do you have the ability to identify and engage these important prospective members? Best-in-class organizations either have or plan to have strategies in place to do so for 2016 and beyond.

4 — Marketing Owns Customer Experience

Customer experience is now of paramount importance to Medicare marketing organizations. From the moment a prospective member becomes aware of your organization or has an interaction with your organization, each and every touch point is vital; something as simple as a planned and cohesive customer-experience process can be the difference between a lifelong member and a fleeting prospect.

5 — Retention and Loyalty Transition of Legacy Members

Since insurer members are most likely to remain with the same insurance company when entering Medicare, are those insurers ready to fight to keep those legacy members through extraordinary retention and loyalty efforts?

6 — Star Rating System

Medicare marketers are struggling with the importance of the star rating system, and are grappling with the actual importance of a 5-star rating as it pertains to acquisition efforts. An organization’s star rating is a direct reflection of its level of professionalism in providing an excellent customer experience across all touch points.

7 — New Media Strategies Are Needed

In the Age of the Consumer, Medicare marketing organizations must adopt and evolve to remain relevant and effective. New marketing positioning and messaging must be compelling to the enlightened and empowered consumer. Marketers must be creatively digital and mobile in their thinking, and adapt to a rapidly changing audience’s new media consumption habits.

  1. Medicare is Changing

According to an ABC news article from January 4, 2016, “Whether it’s coverage for end-of-life counseling or an experimental payment scheme for common surgeries, Medicare in 2016 is undergoing some of the biggest changes in its 50 years. Grandma’s Medicare usually just paid the bills as they came in. Today, the nation’s flagship health-care program is seeking better ways to balance cost, quality and access.”

9 — New Perceptions of Life Expectancy

There are significant new megatrends in elder healthcare. From connected healthcare and virtual doctor visits we have entered what some are calling the longevity economy, where 60 years old is the new 40.

Life expectancy has risen to a little over 78 years, which some will attribute to many new life-extension procedures. Just recently, Medicare announced there may be a program developed to support physicians with end-of-life counseling.

10 — Simplifying the Complex is Essential

Some megatrends are not new, such as attempting to solve the complexities of Medicare through simple and concise communications. Consumers have always been overwhelmed with the complexities of making an informed decision regarding their Medicare coverage. Let’s face it, it’s never been an easy or simple explanation regarding plan choices, and marketers must strive to make the complex simple.

And without a doubt, the greatest megatrend that Medicare marketers will need to deal with is The New Faces of Medicare-Eligible Members, which is a topic I’ll cover in my next article.

Medicare Marketing: What’s Your Tolerance for Testing During AEP?


Each Autumn, starting on October 15th and ending on December 7th, a sprint to the finish line of AEP (Medicare Annual Election Period) is run by every Medicare insurance marketing team.   During this very compressed period of time of 54 days, those who are enrolled in Medicare can choose to switch their coverage during the Annual Election Period.

Even though various reports have identified the percentage of Medicare enrollees who are likely to switch at 10% or less, the year-long planning which leads to a frenzy of marketing activity packed into 7 weeks and 5 days is traversed by every single Medicare insurer since the “land-grab” of AEP is seen as the greatest single opportunity to add net new members.

As modern marketers, we know that testing is essential to optimization, yet, with the constraint of having Medicare marketing tactics perform at the highest possible level during this finite time period, causes many smart marketers to abandon testing due to the high pressure that’s put on marketing to make the AEP numbers.

And those who attempt to stay true to the best practice of testing, often do so, with testing budgets that aren’t nearly adequate for proper statistical validity in test results which prevents optimization of programs.

What is your organization’s tolerance for testing during AEP?   What are you testing?  We all need to be testing channels, the media selection placed within the channels, the messaging used to move people to the call to action, the format of the communications, and challengers to our direct mail pieces, the reality is, that we aren’t testing what we should be testing.

Why?  Excuses abound.

“We only have “$X budget” to bring in “Y” net new members and we can’t take a chance on using a portion of that budget for testing which may, or may not work.”

“We’ve tested similar things before and they’ve never worked.”

“I can’t hire another agency to create a direct mail challenger and then send it to such a small test quantity- it isn’t efficient enough.”

“Every year we hear about the digitally savvy new faces of Medicare coming into market, and each time we’ve tested digital, it doesn’t provide the same ROI as direct mail or TV.”

“We go to conferences, attend seminars, learn about new digital tactics, and we can never find the budget to properly test them.”

“We’re under pressure to perform, and our jobs could be in jeopardy if we don’t perform.”

The consistent lack of testing during AEP is preventing many Medicare marketers from optimizing their efforts and from achieving future success.

Can organizations break away from this vicious cycle so that they can resume what all marketers really must be doing, which is testing?

How can we possibly know if the “control” direct mail package we are sending year after year really is worthy of being a control if we can’t hire another agency to test against it?   How will we ever know if moving budget from traditional to digital channels is going to result in greater MROI?  Is the event strategy and tactics that we are putting into market really the best use of our budget?   If we flight DRTV in concert with direct mail and digital, what effect will it have on our overall results?  What if we changed it up?  How can we change it up?

What can marketers do to insure that testing is part of their plans for every year’s AEP?

As I am privileged and fortunate to be in a position to speak with many marketers whose sole focus is Medicare marketing, I have found that having and enabling a robust testing program in, and for that matter, outside of AEP, is directly attributable to the initial strategic planning stages of the programs.

Marketing leaders are responsible to include testing as part of their overarching plan from the outset.  The leadership of the organization must be made aware that a comprehensive marketing strategy, must include testing and optimization from the get-go.

If you find yourself in the heat of the battle of AEP without budget and planning for testing, it is because the strategy hasn’t been planned well.  Optimization through testing and learning are basic fundamentals of marketing, and often, fundamentals are foolishly overlooked.

There is an old saying that people can be divided into 3 categories: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wondered what happened.

If your organization plans for and conducts testing during AEP, good for you, you are making things happen!

If your organization doesn’t plan for testing during AEP, don’t sit there and just watch things happen.  Be that change agent who stands up to challenge leadership to include testing as a fundamental part of every AEP and Age-In marketing plan.

Without testing, there is no progress, and with no progress, there is no optimization and without optimization, results are eventually going to diminish and falter to the point where everyone will wonder what happened.

Test. It’s not an option. It’s a marketing fundamental. Do it.

Medicare Marketing in the Age of the Consumer


While the empowered and emboldened consumer has caused Medicare marketers to deal with a new dynamic in the past few years. In 2016, we are living our new marketing reality: “The Age of The Consumer.”

Even just a few short years ago, consumers were the receiver of the facts and today, there are a billion journalists, as everyone with a mobile device is now a potential journalist.

We came from a world of Television-centric media to our world where Mobile has become the channel of choice, and to be clear, we’re talking about Seniors and those who are about to enter the Medicare eligible market who have also adopted mobile as their channel of choice.

We used to be a captive audience with a limited vision of attention, whereas now, we are anything but captive.  We have the ability to switch on and off as we see fit, and as it fits our lifestyle.

We have moved from a world of fixed parameters to personalized time and space shifting where we alone, determine what we will view and when we will view it.

Having physically limited access to today’s world of unlimited digital access in an instant has broadened our choices to a world where we are able to function with an “unbounded rationality” of decision making with more choices seemingly appearing by the second.

Rather than being forced to opt-out by simply turning off the source of media such as a radio or television set, today, we must opt-in by choosing to visit a website, by signing up to receive communications from a brand and for tuning in rather than tuning out.

Even the way we used to buy gasoline has changed dramatically, where as recently as 10 years ago Full Service stations seem to disappear.  The “Do it for me” society has given way to the Do It Yourself mentality of today.  I’ll research it myself, I’ll find my own insights myself, and I’ll have to pump my own gas, since no one will do it for me.


Blind brand loyalty has given way to peer validation.  Where we used to rely on brands, today we need to find out what others are saying, writing, doing and tweeting before we are comfortable in making a decision.

Welcome to our new reality- The Age of The Customer, and while this new reality is impacting the way that we will market Medicare to Age-ins and AEP prospective members, there are greater forces at work that will even cause a greater impact for Medicare Marketers.

Saying that 2016 will be an action-packed year for Medicare Marketers is a gross understatement and I’ll cover the 4 forces that will impact Medicare Marketing in 2016 in my next blog article.


Mobile Apps Tap Top Spot While TV Naps


While some have predicted that this day would come, many never believed that it would.  According to Flurry Insights Blog, the prediction that mobile apps would overtake television in our daily viewing time in the United States now rings true.

“For the first time ever, time spent inside mobile applications by the average US consumer has exceeded that of TV” reports Flurry in a report published last month.

The report goes on to say that “the average US consumer is spending 198 minutes per day inside apps compared to 168 minutes on TV.”

Remember, that time spent inside of mobile applications has overtaken time spent watching television.  When you consider how much time Americans are spending on mobile devices in total; an earlier Flurry article disclosed that “in Q2 of 2015, American consumers spent, on average, 3 hours and 40 minutes per day on their mobile devices.  In just six short months since Q4 2014, the average time American consumers spend on their phones each day increased by 43 minutes.”

Americans now spend 220 minutes with their eyeballs fixed on their mobile devices compared to 168 minutes where their eyeballs are fixed on television.  When you consider that the average American is spending a total of nearly 6.5 hours per day on both mobile devices and watching television, you begin to understand that as marketers, our addressable audience is offering us an incredible window of opportunity in which to engage them.

This opportunity that is presented is also in fact, a double edged sword.

How many marketing messages is the average person exposed to in one day?  The answer to that question is also riddled with controversy as the debate regarding the answer is still taking place today.  A 2007 N.Y. Times article “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad” cites a study by Yankelovich, a market research firm that “estimates that a person living in a city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages a day, compared with up to 5,000 today. About half the 4,110 people surveyed last spring by Yankelovich said they thought marketing and advertising today was out of control.”

We also have to consider that this article was written before the advent and proliferation of programmatic media buying and retargeting, which may not increase the number of messages seen, but certainly increases the frequency of specific messages seen based on algorithmic strategies.

How then, can we as marketers craft messages that are compelling and relevant to our audience, that will somehow stand out and apart from the sea of messages that each of us are exposed to?   And, where and how within those 6.5 hours of mobile usage and television viewing are we likely to break through the clutter and win the attention, and consideration of our message deluged audience?

Perhaps it’s not Apps or TV, maybe it’s TV through Apps

Apple CEO Tim Cook said this during his Keynote: “We believe the future of television is apps.  When you experience TV in this way through an app, you realize how much better it can be. You can search for what you want, you can interact with it where and when you want.”

Netflix is an early adopter of the Television through Apps model, and with the new Apple TV which will have its own App Store, and the rest of the set top box competitors vying for market share, there is most likely a new “New Media” based on interactive engagement with both mobile and Smart TV apps on the not-to-distant horizon.

“By 2016 there will be 2 Billion Smart Phones worldwide” according to eMarketer.

How many Apps will there be?  One can only guess.  As modern marketers, we’ll be considering and contemplating how and when and where to reach those people with our messages that will be relevantly compelling and will break through the clutter to stand out from the crowd.

And, in case you hadn’t noticed, at the exact time of posting this there are 69 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes, 29 seconds until 2016 arrives.  Which isn’t a lot of time, so let’s start now!

The Empowered B-to-B Buyers Manifesto

Part 6 of the “Modern B2B Marketing in the Era of the Empowered Buyer Content Stream”

Much has been reported and written over the past two years regarding the modern B2B buyer’s journey, with almost all of the research indicating that, in some way, shape or form, salespeople are being displaced by the ubiquity of available information on digital channels. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and Google have been quoted numerous times about B2B buyers traveling 57% of their journey without ever contacting sales. SiriusDecisions stated just last year that “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally,” and many other sources, such as Forrester and Gartner, have reported similar statistics, all pointing to the fact that buyers are completing a majority of the journey without contacting a vendor’s salespeople.

A 2014 Demand Gen Report on B2B Buyer Behavior states: “As many as 34% of respondents said the number of team members involved in the B2B purchase process increased over the past year” and TechTarget chimes in too: “The single buyer is no longer—team buying is prevalent across all geographies as 55–75% of respondents indicate that the most common buying team consists of 2–4 people, but the size of the buying team increases at larger companies.” CEB puts the average size of the enterprise buying group at 5.4 people.

The average B2B buyer age is going down

A recent article in Advertising Age states that millennial influence within B2B buying decision groups is growing rapidly, according to a new study by Google and the research house Millward Brown Digital, where 46% of potential buyers researching B2B products today are millennials, up from 27% in 2012.

We’d like to introduce you to someone quite important.   Someone that you’ll need to become quite familiar with, we’d like to introduce you to the business-to-business empowered buyer of today.

The Business-to-Business Empowered Buyers Manifesto

We have taken power.

We will no longer sit back and be sold to.

We have access to more information than ever with the mere touch
of a finger, and we intend to use it.

We have a ravenous appetite for content, not marketing material.

We don’t stand alone. We are constantly influenced by our network
and we make our decisions in groups. Our strength is in numbers.

Because of us, marketing will never be the same. And that’s a good thing.

We work, think and buy on our own terms.

We will create the future to our liking.

We will be unshakably loyal to what works for us.

And ruthlessly fickle to what doesn’t.

We are the empowered buyer. Welcome to our world.

(Download The Empowered B-to-B Buyer’s Manifesto Here)

The modern business-to-business empowered buyer is more complex, sophisticated and independent than the buyers of yesterday.   They  don’t know who you are and  while they may recognize your firm, they don’t know you.

How much do you really know about your buyers? Do you really know what they want or need and do you know how they feel or what they’re thinking?   Do you know what generational segment that your buyers hail from, and if you do,  you’d better be ready to speak Boomer, X-er, Y-er and Millennial, as each generational segment really only understands their own language.

Your buyer is part of a buying group of between three to seven people on average, so even if you convince your buyer, you’ll also have to convince their group, or help your buyer to convince their group, that your solution makes sense.

Buyers don’t trust your content and only 9% of them trust content provided by vendors however, your buyers do trust content generated by my peers as 86% of IT buyers use social media networks and peer-generated content in the purchase decision process.

Do your buyers know what your brand means?  Maybe they once knew, or maybe they never knew, are you prepared to tell them what your brand stands for?

Why would your buyer stop what they’re doing to listen to you? The attention span of humans is shorter than ever. You don’t have much time to convince your buyer. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Your buyer is using their own digital resources on their own times and terms to seek out solutions.  When marketing to the empowered business customer of 2015,  your organization needs to show up in their  research since the modern buyer  will travel 57% of their buyer’s journey and download 17 pieces of content before they engage with a salesperson.

It’s a brave new world with brave new buyers, and marketers who aren’t adapting to succeed in this new world, are flirting with obsolescence.

Throughout the Summer of ’15, various types of content will be produced to tell you this story.

In the next installment of Modern B2B Marketing in the Era of the Empowered Buyer, I will take a deeper dive areas where marketers are missing the mark on demand generation, beginning with the “Inability to realize the importance of the brand.”

Stay tuned right here for the continuation of the content stream presentation.